Congress is back this week in Washington, but the hysterics of nanny staters hardly ebbed over the holidays. In the New Year, activists have turned their ire to regulatory agencies, asking the government to pick winners and losers in private industry. Most recently, an association of pharmacies has demanded the Federal Trade Commission arbitrarily restrict the pharmaceutical industry rather than allowing businesses to respond to consumer demands.
In pursuit of this goal, the National Association of Chain Drugstores has launched a scare campaign: TooBigToPlayFair.com. The NACD alleges that a merger between two Pharmacy Benefit Managers (companies that work with both drug companies and insurers to provide effective and affordable prescription assistance; in this case two successful enterprises, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions) would allow the companies to become a monopoly in the pharmaceutical market.
Oddly enough, the NACD seems to resemble just that; its own website claims its members fill 72 percent of prescriptions in the United States. From that, one might conclude that chain retailers have an (unfair?) large part of the retail market. Yet these groups want consumers to believe that a PBM merger—which would result in a company that covers about a third of the prescriptions written annually—would be more harmful to consumers than their “total” representation of the retail market. Experts say this is an unfounded allegation – the PBM industry is still highly competitive.
Incidentally, the NACD also has the powerful AFL-CIO on their side. Labor unions are long-time campaign backers of Big Government Democrats, and their support of the anti-free market NACD effort shows the campaign is aimed at subverting, not maintaining, a fair and competitive marketplace.